“How to Research the Competition Before Your Write Your Book” was the title of a blog post that Stephanie Chandler wrote years ago. I remembered it when I met a group of writers recently, talking with them about the book-writing and marketing process.
Imagine you build a house: You buy a property, but don’t care about zoning, you start building your home without any architectural or static plans, just erecting the beams or setting one stone over the other. The roof? The windows? You don’t care about these details, they will eventually fall in place … You may laugh to read about such a stupid way to start building a home – but it is equal to the way how some writers start their book, their publishing and book marketing.
Research Is Not Popular
The word research is often not very popular with authors – but unfortunately many writers can relate the lack of success for their book to the lack of research before writing, publishing and marketing. There are millions of books published every year and chances are very high that a similar one – not matter if fiction or non-fiction – is already published. But why would anyone not care about:
- Keywords and title for your future book?
- Similar books that are published already (your competition)?
- Prices of similar books in your genre?
- Cover design of books in your genre?
- How do these authors describe their books on the Internet?
- The popularity of the genre and potential readership?
- Which forums about your topic are on the internet?
- Where on Social Media do you find readers of your genre?
- Which magazines / newspapers write about / in your genre?
- Who is your preferred reader / book purchaser and how can you reach them?
- On which reader forums can you post single chapters of your book?
- Websites / blogs of writers in your genre?
- How does your competition promote their books?
- Which tags / keywords / hashtags do they use?
- To which magazines / newspapers / blogs could you offer short stories to promote your book?
If you want to go with a trade publisher:
- Do you have a large amount of followers on Social Media / you blog or website?
- Do you have a marketing plan for your book prepared?
- Where can you find a critique group for your book before you offer it to agents?
- Do you have a perfect query letter / proposal written? (to be send out BEFORE the book is finished
All this research is necessary, no matter if you write fiction or non-fiction. For fiction you have to do even more research: locations, times, characters for your book…
Where to Find All This Information?
Number one source is certainly the Internet. Just type in your genre or your future book title, keywords that readers would use to find a book like yours. Go to Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Sony, Apple and other online retailers and search for similar books and in the genre. Compare author websites and book sales pages. Find out how many books are in which categories, and what reviewers are writing about these books. Check out their books sales numbers, their covers and book blurbs.
Visit bookstores and libraries and check out your competition. Create a mock-up of your future book and compare its cover and spine, placing it among the bestsellers in your genre. Does it stand out? Ask sales personal which book is the most popular in your genre and find out why when reading it.
There is No Such Thing as Too Much Research
Sheryl Clark gave this useful advice in one of her blogs: “No matter what information you find or where it is, record the source. I keep a big notebook and I put book titles and authors in it, as well as websites and journals. You never know when you might need it again, or might need to verify where you found it.”
Could you answer all these questions that I listed? What did YOU do to research your future book, it’s competition and marketing possibilities? Do YOU care about the success of your upcoming books?
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